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Atonement

by Ian McEwan
by

Sarah Wolin

on 11 June 2010

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Transcript of Atonement

Atonement
By Ian McEwan Background

Book Background Setting About the author:
Ian McEwan was born in Aldershot, and he spent much of his childhood in East Asia, Germany and North Africa. His father, was a Scottish army officer, which might be why Atonement takes place during a time of war, and why the war turns into a motif during the novel. The novel starts in the summer of 1935. Briony and Cecilia are from a wealthy English family. Briony is a 13 year old with a wild imagination, while Cecilia is her sensible older sister. Briony loves making up stories, as is the case for an encounter between Cecilia and the families charwoman's son Robbie, and also when her cousin was attacked.
Part 2 and 3 take place during WWII, inwhich Robbie is right out of prison, and is a soldier. WWII was a deadly war, and that is the case for Robbie, who is injured and everytime he seems to need something he take it off of a dead mans body. This imagery hints at how deadly, gruesome and dangerous life as a soldier can be.
Part 3 takes place in a hospital and at Cecilia's house., inwhich Briony is a nurse, and takes a day off to visit Cecilia in order to get atonement for what she did.
While the beginning of the novel does not take place in WWII, but before it, the rest of the novel takes place during WWII. Atonement as a novel affords a glimpse of a pre-war time period, and how much of a travesty is was.
WWII lasted from 1939 to 1945, between most of the World. It is believed that around 50 to over 70 million million people died in WWII, 450,000 from the United Kingdoms.
Characters Main Characters Briony Tallis One of the protagonists of the novel; She's the younger sister of Cecilia Tallis.
The beginning of the novel profiles Briony as an eleven years old girl. She is
seen as the writer, who has a vast imagination. Her imagination leads to the
downfall of not only herself, but of the entire family. Cecilia Tallis Turner Introduced in the beginning of the novel as a condescending
character. She fills in the role of her mother, and takes up the
responsibility of the household and the motherly roles. The climax
of the novel commences once Cecilia recieves a letter from Robbie.
She is later introduced into the novel as being a ward sister; she severes
all contact with her family once she has gone into this field. Robbie Turner The second protagonist of this novel; the son of Grace Turner, the family cleaner of the Tallis'. He is funded educationally by Jack Tallis, father of Cecilia and Briony. Robbie and Cecilia have been childhood friends and later onwards develop a further relationship. He is seen as the scapegoat for the faults that occur within the household. As the readers go further into the novel, it becomes evident that Robbie joins part of the war in order to occupy his mind and time.
Minor Characters Jack Tallis Paul Marshall Emily Tallis Jackson & Pierrot Quincey Leon Tallis Lola Quincey The father of Cecilia and Briony. Has always played an absent role in family; however, he is seen as a strict figure. He takes Robbie and Grace Turner into the family and gives them the house that is tangent to the main house that the Tallis family lives in. He remains at his job for majority of the time. He is introduced into the novel as being Leon's friend. He is known as being the inventor of the Amo, chocolate, which is supplied to the soldiers. He made the chocolate out of artificial ingredients, he didn't use cocoa to create this chocolate. He is a man whose motives Briony later questions. He marries Lola Quincey. She is the sister of Jackson and Pierrot; she fills in the the motherly role since she was left with her aunt. She is seen by Emily Tallis to be similar in character to her mother, Hermione Quincey. She later onwards marries Paul Marshall. The brother of Cecilia and Briony. Leon didn't fill in the space of his father, he became a banker instead. His job is seen by many as being dull, but he gets a well paid salary. He comes to visit the family weekly and tries to keep a close connection with his sisters. She is the mother of Cecilia and Briony. However, she plays an absent role within their lives. Emily is aware that she isn't in the family's life as much as she is required to be as a mother. She is compelled to remain in bed because of the painstaking migraines she continously has. They're the twin brothers of Lola, and are nine years old.; they're introduced into the novel in the very beginning as the "orphans." They're extremely violent towards Lola, this was their way of relieving their feelings about being seperated from their parents. Plot Elements Part I Part II Part III The Tallis family welcomes Emily's sister's children into the household. It can be seen that the children struggle accomodate the new lifestyle. It can be seen that Cecilia is in charge of giving the working staff orders in order to make the appropriate dinner and have a successful night. It can be seen through her actions that Emily doesn't play a vital role within the household. She shows the readers that life continues while she is unable to participate in the daily routines of the household. The struggle to find an identity can be witnessed in Briony as she struggles to create characters in her stories. These stories represent Briony's struggle to make a stance within the family. Briony's imagination expands through her view of what she sees through her windows. The windows illustrate the openning to creation for Briony. Robbie and Cecilia become more aware of their feelings for one another in this section of the novel. Robbie chooses to not return home, instead he opts to join those who are fighting in the war. The war opens Robbie to the various lifestyles people live. The different people who are killed during this war and the bodies he comes to witness on the streets, brings Robbie back to what happened when he lived with the Tallises. Since Robbie is educated, he has the ability to speak to many civilians in French, this is extremely helpful in finding hospitality. His strength throughout the war is his knowledge that Cecilia is "waiting for him." Cecilia and Briony are depicted in this section of the novel as being involved in the war as well. Both sisters are helping in different locations but are aiding the soldiers; however, both sisters do not communicate with each other. This can be seen as their step into building their character and creating their individuality. Briony struggles to suppress her imagination because she becomes aware that her imagination is the cause of many of the conflicts which have risen within the family. Cecilia continues to be the motherly role and holds the most responsibility as the "ward sister." Majority of the characters are led to the final events of their lives. Briony is left to reflect upon the choices that she made throughout the novel. However, throughout the events that Briony faces, she still remains the creative writer she was introduced as in the beginning of the novel..... Coporal Mace Coporal Nettle He remains with Robbie as they face the consequences of the war that are taking place. When Robbie is about to become the victim of an angry group of men, Mace saves Robbie. He is another companion of Mace and Robbie as they go through Dunkirk. They rely on each other in order to have the necessities in order to survive the war. Literary Techniques Themes
1. Atonement- the search for atonement throughout the novel is evident amongst the characters. How Robbie tried to make up for using the inappropriate word in the letter; how Briony carried the weight for the wrong she did until she met Cecilia and Robbie some years later- She does not grant herself forgiveness. Rather, she attempts to earn atonement through giving Robbie and Cecilia a life together in her writing
2. truth v imagination- Throughout the novel, Briony constructs her own world due to immaturity and misunderstanding, both in her literature and in her mind. Briony's made-up plot is mostly positive and optimistic, such as the inclusion of Robbie and Cecilia meeting at the end of her story. However, her false reality turned out to be the major turning point of the story, as she lied about the rape of Lola
3. Creativity- Observation of complex adult behaviors challenge briory’s rosy views and she struggles to understand and find means of recording unclear events- which leads to undeniably lifechanging consequences that she eventually regrets Motifs
1. Peace- peace is evident in the Tallis estate, whether it is real or not. The Tallis estate seems like a calm place that is set aside to be in its own world apart from the outside world, as is the similar situation reflected on the residents. Every character is calm in its own way, in their own world, keeping their feelings to themselves and acting very close minded
2. Death- The motif of death occurs mostly while Briony is working in the hospital, as she encounters the death of many soldiers and bystanders from the war. Also the war, Robbie witnesses the death of many soldiers and innocent bystanders, and many bystanders experience the death of others around themselves. It contrasts the motif of living and enjoying life in the beginning parts of the novel
3. Love- The relationship between Cecilia and Robbie is portrayed throughout the book as a loving one. The novel also reflects on the idea that true love can never be separated by obstacles until death takes over. Symbols
The vase- The vase acts as a stimulator for catharsis for both Robbie and Cecilia. That split second when one followed another into the fountain signals a sign of their love. Allusion to other works of literature
- Virginia Woolf's The Waves, Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure, Henry James' The Golden Bowl, Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, and Shakespeare's The Tempest, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night Foreshadowing
- How Cecilia glued the vase back together after it broke foreshadows the love that she and Robbie would share. True love can never be destroyed and will always be combined again if it is meant to be. Even though she and Robbie were separated by Briory’s overprotectiveness, eventually they reconciled with each other, albeit it was only for 30 minutes Flashback
- how Robbie recalled the memory of him teaching Briory swimming; according to him she loved him and after she read that word in the letter, she possibly felt betrayed- therefore the reason behind her act in which she got Robbie jailed might be due to spite rather than her looking out for her sister Irony
- How the use of the inappropriate word did not reflect Robbie’s true character; How an innocent bystander was put to blame for something he did not do; and how Lola eventually ended up marrying the true rapist Point of View
- Atonement is written in the third person, apparently by a neutral but sympathetic observer
The signing of Part 3 leads to the conclusion that parts 1 and 3 of Atonement are a fictional autobiography cast in the third person
Language
- Atonement is written in rich, flowing British English. It captures the flavor of life among upper class, Cambridge-educated young people who only vaguely realize their way of life is being threatened by Hitler's rise to power Structure
Part 1- concentration on the major characters, and the build up to the climax, including the false arrest of Robbie for the rape of Lola on testimony presented by Briony
Part 2- Robbie Turner in the force, also reveals that Robbie has not lost contact with Cecilia
Part 3- Briony's nurse training in a London hospital put on war footing. She continues on to confront her sister and explain that she wants to set the record straight.
London, 1999- Briony's 77th birthday. It changes perception on the earlier three parts, which are Briony's composition, an attempt at atoning for her 1935 sin with the happy ending of Robbie and Cecilia's reunion in 1940 composed fiction.
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